The Wild Wild West

18 Aug

Our regular Classic Bookclub took place earlier this week to discuss Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man. Despite its seemingly simple style and small size, we had plenty to talk about. We even got around to debating Johnny Depp’s suitability for the role of Nick Charles in the rumoured remake. We also eventually selected our next book – well, books – for October.

Due to a combination of lofty inspirations (a video game and a tv show), the upcoming session will be a bit of a western bonanza. Having read My Antonia during my degree, I was intrigued to find out what Willa Cather’s other writings were like. I had a vague recollection of not being sure I liked it whilst I was reading it, but once I had finished, My Antonia lingered in my mind. What resonated most strongly was the rugged landscape and gritty spirit of its inhabitants. Despite being female, and thus not the target demographic for the whole cowboys thing, I’ve always been a bit of a sucker for the Wild West. I went through a quite serious ‘horsey’ phase as a youngster and although I’ve never read Walden, my affinity for the wilderness and roughing it is considerable.

However, I thought that reading a straight forward western novel, like Riders of the Purple Sage, might not deliver the kind of meaty characters, particularly female ones, required for a proper discussion. I thought we had hit the jack pot with The Thin Man, which I had assumed would be full of film noir stereotypes. Instead, our sullen and arch protagonist, Nick Charles, is aided by his bright and glamorous wife, in almost crew-ball comedy style. So, in order to complement our pulpy western bestseller, O Pioneers! seemed like an obvious choice. Throughout her life, Cather wore men’s clothes and reportedly claimed she preferred writing male characters to women in her books. I’m hoping this rather androgynous position will cast an interesting light on the Greys cowboys and damsels in distress.

The next Classic Bookclub will take place on Monday the 16th of Octpber at 7.30 pm. Copies of both Riders of the Purple Sage  (£ 8.99) and O Pioneers! (£7.99) are available in store now. Hope to see you there!

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